Today I attended a Celebration of Life for our friend George. While he only attended Gentog for 6 months – and it’s been three years since he left our program, he made a definite impact. He was a professor by trade, and he brought that spirit to Gentog every day. He was our only participant that always wore a suit when he came. He often used our white board for creating his fun art – as you can see from the picture above. He occasionally put on a lecture about astronomy, which surprisingly many of our participants enjoyed. He was a special guy.
But today I spent a little while with his family and friends – the people that had loved him for many years BEFORE we knew him. One of his close friends asked me “Did you know him before Alzheimer’s?”, and I had to answer “No.” I enjoyed hearing the George stories – George as a true professor that inspired young minds, George as a Dad who taught his children many valuable life lessons, George as a husband who had a wife that truly adored him. It was fun to hear about George’s life.
I had a couple of revelations as I mingled today. One is that I knew George was a special guy, before I heard these stories. I may never have known him without the cloud of Alzheimer’s, but his spirit always showed through. I knew that he had to be a pretty cool guy because I’ve become friends with the wife he loved and the children he raised.
I also learned today that the service we provide at Gentog has many layers. We absolutely create a place where someone with Alzheimer’s can come and be accepted and celebrated for who they are today. We also create a community where families can get to know each other. Two of the people at the celebration today were wives of Gentog participants that have passed away – and they’ve stayed connected with George’s wife for these three years, after meeting and bonding here. We create a support system, a community, a family.